Oliver Lutz Radtke
Author: Oliver Lutz Radtke
Title: „Welcome to Presence“. Abenteuer Alltag in China. [Adventures in Everyday Life in China] Time: 2000-2010
Length: about 10 years
Type: long-term stay
News from Absurdistan?
[Note: no English edition available yet.]
The story: OLR is a German Sinologist – a scholar of Chinese culture. He has spent a considerable length of time in China, and now he’s here to tell us about it: OLR on a plane with Chinese travelers, OLR in language class, OLR in a Beijing hospital. To me, this somehow fits into the category of „travel literature“, so here I am to tell you about it.
Oliver Lutz Radtke can English very well
„Welcome to Presence“ – what does that even mean? After digging through the first pages, we find out that it’s in fact an example of „Chinglish“, the faulty use of English by Chinese people. Failed communication can be funny sometimes. You get the picture.
But here’s what you probably didn’t know: OLR’s obsession with this forgivable flaw (after all, we Germans say „handy“ when we mean „mobile phone“, and isn’t that somehow „Germanglish“ as well?) goes deep. So deep in fact that he has apparently published books before in which he collected nothing but absurd examples of „Chinglish“. Oh well.
China – a deviation?
After this discovery, it doesn’t seem very surprising that the book is of rather mixed quality. While some of OLR’s insights on China are actually quite worth reading, his writing voice is a bit of a problem. Like in those parts where he puts the English names of Chinese people in quotation marks. Let me explain: if a girl’s real name is, for example, Wang Tingting (王婷婷), but she chooses to introduce herself as Laura, then why not just call her that? Why add the quotation marks that turn Laura into „Laura“ and make her sound like you can’t take her seriously? Is this still well-meaning humor or just plain condescension?
OLR sometimes left me under the impression that European (German?) culture was supposed to be the accepted standard, while Chinese (Beijing?) culture was a sort of absurd deviation.
I think he meant well. I think my above verdict was probably a bit too harsh. Actually, if you are new to China and you choose to read OLR’s book, you will probably learn a few things. He might even set some clichés right for you. I only hope for you that you can block out the „humorous“ parts and see a country that is not more or less absurd than any other.